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My teacher always corrects me when I use 男 or 女 by themselves, without adding の人 to the end of it. But in various Japanese media (music, drama, anime, etc.), I know for sure that I have heard them without の人.

So I'm assuming that adding の人 is a formality thing. Please correct me on this if I'm wrong.

What kind of situations would it be more appropriate to add の人, and what kind of situations would it be more appropriate to not add it? Basically I am wondering just how formal adding の人 is or how informal not adding it is.

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I would like to add to this, when do you add の子? Is it just an age thing? I feel like I've heard this to refer to people older then what I would consider a "child". Where is the age cut off? –  silvermaple Jan 21 '12 at 18:20

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

and are neutral with politeness in formal contexts. In conversation or colloquial style, they may be (but not necassarily) used to imply rudeness, and 男の人, 女の人, 男性, 女性 are more polite.

When you listen to Japanese news, you will hear both and , and 男の人, 女の人, 男性, and 女性. That is a very ashameful aspect of the Japanese culture, and it reveals that the Japanese society is still immature. In these contexts, the announcers are expected/pressured (by the society/broadcasting company) to express personal feelings against criminal suspects by the use of language. and are used for offenders (or suspects as well in earlier days) to express that the announcer is siding with the victim and is hence showing a personal dislike to the offender/suspect. This kind of language use is generally subsumed under the notion of 呼び捨て. Other examples include: avoiding to put the polite affix さん to criminals. This departs from the nature of journalism being a neutral and factual information source, and its idea is to add a non-official punishment to the criminal/suspect besides the official judgement given by the court.

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This is a great reply that not only answers the question but also shows me an interesting way the Japanese language's implied formalities can be used... I'm just wondering though, if it is clear that you are being neutral and have no negative intentions, is it OK to use or by themselves? Or would it just be better to get used to using 男の人 and 女の人? –  atlantiza Jan 22 '12 at 2:38
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@atlantiza If it is clear that you are not using it with negative intentions, then there is not problem. I think your teacher is too nervous about it. –  sawa Jan 22 '12 at 3:53

I feel that 男 and 女 put more focus on the gender - or maybe even sexuality - and sound a bit いやらしい. 男の人, 女の人, 男性, 女性 are more matter-of-fact-ly.

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  1. 男{おとこ}/女{おんな}
    • As dainichi said, focused on gender/sexuality
    • it would sound kanda rude if you say like 私の先生は女です.
  2. 男性{だんせい}/女性{じょせい} or 男性{だんせい}の方{かた}/女性{じょせい}の方{かた} or 男{おとこ}の人{ひと}/女{おんな}の人{ひと} or 男{おとこ}の方{かた}/女{おんな}の方{かた}
    • Formal/Soften/Polite way of saying 男{おとこ}/女{おんな}
    • Used at business/normal conversation
  3. 男{おとこ}の子{こ}/女{おんな}の子{こ}
    • When refers to child.
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But girls over 20 or even 30 are often called 女の子 you know... –  Choko Jan 22 '12 at 0:59
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@Chocolate Sure, and old men in English often say "girl" to refer to any woman younger than themselves. –  Karl Knechtel Jan 23 '12 at 21:40

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